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article imageScientists accidentally helping poachers to find rare species

By Kesavan Unnikrishnan     May 29, 2017 in Environment
Scientists have sent out a warning about publishing the location and habitat of endangered animals in scientific journals. Wildlife poachers are trawling online publications to target rare and exotic species as soon as the animals are described online.
In an report published in Science magazine , biologists David Lindenmayer and Benjamin Scheele at the Australian National University, urged scientists across the world not to share detailed information about where the species is found in their research reports. According to their study, more than 20 newly-described species and their habitats had been targeted by poachers through open-access location data.
The most striking example the researchers quote is the illegal trade in Chinese cave geckoes that began so soon after they were first scientifically described in the early 2000s with the species being pushed to extinction in the wild in a decade. The report says:
Biologists must urgently unlearn parts of their centuries-old publishing culture and rethink the benefits of publishing location data and habitat descriptions for rare and endangered species to avoid unwittingly contributing to further species declines.
Restricting information entails some costs, but these must be weighed against the increasing harm of unrestricted information accessibility.
Scientists are worried that poachers are accessing online reports and publications at the click of a button. In the past. such information could only be accessed through hard copies and library basements.
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Already. there are signs researchers are beginning to recognize this problem and adapting to it. In some of the recent research reports detailing new species,animals are described without location data or habitat descriptions.
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